Self-sealing tubes for bikes cost a couple of dollars more than conventional tire tubes. Most modern bicycle, motorbike, car, and truck tires are tubeless tires and thus do not require an inner tube to keep the inflation pressure. Some excellent sealing products have been developed for these tubeless tire applications.
Self-sealing inner tubes have proven an effective countermeasure to sealing up tire punctures but add to the bike’s weight. Tubeless tires used in conjunction with tire sealant are a more cost and weight-effective solution.
Most modern bicycles are fitted with tubeless rims and tires. As the weight of the bike is critical to performance, tubeless tires have been developed to eliminate the additional weight of the inner tubes.
Still, many bicycle owners are not so concerned with the weight of their bicycles and prefer having an inner tube. So let’s look at whether this tire and tube combination with tube sealant is worth it.
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When Will Self-Sealing Bike Tubes Be Worth It?
Suppose you have frequent small punctures on your leisure cycling routes, the installation of self-sealing inner tubes may offer a convenient solution. Self-sealing inner tubes are effective for small puncture holes, with diameters smaller than 0.2mm.
The self-sealing tubes may even seal most small punctures without you even being aware of them. However, holes larger than 0.2mm in diameter will require a patch to repair.
The extra weight and difficulties in roadside repairs of self-sealing tubes will not be suitable for the ardent competitive cyclist.
Cyclists competing in road races will always carry spare tubes and an air pump or fast inflation carbon dioxide cartridge with them during a race.
The extra weight of self-sealing inner tubes will not be suitable to mitigate the risk of punctures. Tire pressures as high as 80 to 160 psi can result in large puncture holes when the tires encounter road debris like broken glass or thorns.
The little extra weight and softer tires do not matter that much for the occasional leisure cyclist. The additional cost over conventional inner tubes is relatively low and will make the fitment of self-sealing bike tubes a worthwhile investment.
When Is Self-Sealing Bike Tubes Not Worth It?
For competitive road or mountain bike cyclists, tire punctures are frequent. Therefore, the ability to do running repairs during a race is critically important to improve on personal best times.
Competitive cyclists are not always allowed much technical assistance from race seconds or maybe too far from their seconds to get the timely service.
The extra weight of inner tubes will not be acceptable to competitive cyclists. Furthermore, the self-sealing tubes have a limited scope of application in racing bikes as they are only effective for small punctures.
Tire repair kits for tubeless tires comprise tire sealant in a high-pressure bottle to re-inflate the tire and seal the puncture.
The tire sealant is a slimy liquid solution that can result in a mess when trying to do a roadside repair during a race. Most competitive cyclists will carry spare tires and tubes to effect repairs during a race.
Changing out a punctured tire is something that a competitive cyclist will practice and perfect to limit the time lost during the repair in a race.
Competitive cyclists hate carrying excess weight on the bike as it requires the rider to work harder to maintain speed. Even the number of paint layers on the bicycle can make a difference in who summits first at the Tour de France.
Competitive cyclists will not use self-sealing tire tubes.
How Do Self-Sealing Bike Tubes Work?
Sealing liquids, popularly known as tire slime, consists of a liquid that will form a coating inside the tube or tire. When the tire of the tube is punctured, the air pressure inside the tube will force the sealing liquid into the hole and form a mechanical plug.
The tire slime contains fibers of various lengths. These fibers will collect in and around the puncture by the force of the air pressure tying to blow the air out of the tire.
The fibers and the carrier liquid will form a hard seal in the puncture hole and prevent further air pressure loss. The cyclist may have to pump the tire and tube up some more to recover some of the air pressure lost during the formation of the sealing plug.
Self-sealing tubes will have adequate tire slime to seal the puncture up permanently and enable the cyclist to enjoy many more puncture-free miles.
Tire tubes with the self-sealing slime already inside them can be purchased ready for fitment at about two dollars more than conventional inner tubes of the same size.
The convenience of not having to do puncture repairs during a leisurely cycling excursion is worth the extra cost.
For the leisure cyclist not familiar with puncture repairs, the self-sealing tubes are worth the extra money. Tire slime is also used on tubeless tires on your car, truck, or motorcycle.
Effective puncture repair and prevention of pressure loss can help get you to your destination safely and without the need to get your hands dirty.
The repair of tires and tubes filled with tire slime is a messy affair and one that many cyclists and motorists find distasteful. To repair effectively, you must thoroughly clean off the slimy liquid in the inner tire and tube.
Many also complain that the tire slime causes blockages in the tire valve, making inflation difficult.
Self-sealing tubes is a good investment for children’s bicycles or leisure cyclists. Such cyclists may often encounter small thorns that cause punctures and the resultant flat tire. In the leisure application, the self-sealing tube can be the answer to avoiding getting your hands dirty.
In competitive bicycling events, where the best race times are at stake, the extra weight and difficulty to repair self-sealing tubes are not advised. Instead, practice in quick tire changes and effective repairs will pay off during timed events, where repairing right the first time is critical.